The past months have seen an amazing spread of fastfood workers’ protests over the US and even across the world (last May, see map above). Workers are demanding $15 per hour and the right organize. Last weekend, over 1,300 fastfood workers attended a convention in Illinois to discuss the next stage of their campaign, vowing to do ‘whatever it takes’. This may include direct actions such as occupying restaurants and sit-down strikes.
Inspired by Martin Luther King and by the Justice for Janitors campaign, workers ‘voted unanimously to conduct a wave of civil disobedience actions’. The campaign is growing into a broad social movement:
A video shown at the convention on Saturday morning drew an explicit line between the civil rights era, organized labor, feminism, the immigrant justice movement, the push for marriage equality, and the fast food workers. Speakers repeatedly emphasized the inclusiveness of the fast food workers’ movement, and its commitment to immigrant rights, racial justice, gender parity, and LGBT equality. (MSNBC)The campaign is already paying off, explained president Mary Kay Henry of service workers’ union SEIU. The union has just signed a contract for 20,000 cafetaria and other service workers in the LA school district that will raise their wages, now often $8 or $9 per hour, to $15 by 2016. The campaign has also put income inequality on the political agenda. Seattle introduced a local minimum wage of $15 per hour and similar measures are considered in San Francisco and Chicago. In the midterm elections in November, there will be efforts to raise the minimum wage in many states.
Meanwhile, fastfood ceo’s earn about 1,200 times as much as they pay their workers. Since 2000, their pay has increased by over 300% while their workers’ wages have risen only 0.3%.